Fresno: Economy

Major Industries and Commercial Activity

Agriculture is the backbone of the Fresno area, employing nearly 20 percent of the workforce and providing more than $3.5 billion for the local economy. More jobs are tied into the agricultural industry than any other industry in the Freso area; estimates are that one in three jobs in all are related to agriculture. A majority of America's produce is grown in California's Central Valley, and Fresno County is the number one agricultural county in the United States. By 2005 more than 7,500 farmers were growing 250 types of crops on 1 million acres of some of the world's most productive farmland. Major crops are grapes, cotton, cattle, tomatoes, milk, plums, turkeys, oranges, peaches, and nectarines. A large food processing industry has developed around the agricultural activity; a number of canning, curing, drying, and freezing plants are located in the area.

An Ernst and Young study also tapped Fresno as an ideal location for manufacturing and distribution, due to its proximity within one day's drive of 35 million people. Manufacturing concerns in this Port of Entry region produce farm machinery, metal products, transportation equipment, stone, clay, and glass products, lumber and wood products, furniture and fixtures, and electrical equipment. Government, services, and trade are also important economic sectors.

Incentive Programs—New and Existing Companies

Local programs

In 2002 the City of Fresno was one of just seven localities nationwide to be awarded a lucrative Federal Empowerment Zone designation. The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development will fund this program until December 31, 2009. Business that are located in the Empowerment Zone are eligible for significant incentives that will encourage expansion, including up to $3,000 per employee per year, tax deductions on property investment and capital gains, tax-free rollover of certain gains, and tax-exempt financing through state or local government bonds. The City of Fresno is specifically interested in attracting new businesses involved with flexible food manufacturing, irrigation and agricultural technology, agile industrial manufacturing, advanced logistics, smart commerce and customer services.

In addition to these programs, the city also has other programs such as the Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) and the Fresno Redevelopment Agency (RDA) and its finance authority, that can be useful when considering Industrial Development Bonds. The City has also developed relationships with other agencies such as the Fresno County Workforce Development Corporation and the Fresno Chamber of Commerce and Economic Development Corporation, which offer assistance to the developer and other companies considering a move to the City of Fresno.

State programs

The city of Fresno has one of the largest Enterprise Zones in California. Within the zone, the State of California provides business tax credits covering a wide range of hiring, financing, and capital investment activities. Among the advantages of investing in Enterprise Zones in 2005 was a Net Operating Loss carry-forward of up to 100 percent for up to 15 years; $31,544 or more in state tax credits to firms for each qualified employee hired; and sales tax credits to corporations on purchases of $20 million per year of qualified machinery and machinery parts. The State Loan Guarantee Program provides working capital loans, and Small Business Administration loans are available to assist in financing fixed-capital and operational expenditures. All programs are administered through the State of California Commerce and Economic Development Program.

Development Projects

The most significant development in recent years, the Save Mart Center on the campus of Fresno State University, opened in late 2003 as a venue for national touring concert acts, as well as Fresno State home basketball games. Several downtown developments have revitalized the area, including the Tower at Convention Center Court, an 11-story complex completed in 2003, as well as several other office towers. A new federal courthouse will be the tallest building in Fresno. These and other planned developments are part of the city's Vision 2010 that aims to bring residents back to the area.

Economic Development Information: Economic Development Department, Jeffrey Reid, City Manager, 2600 Fresno St (2nd floor), Fresno, CA 93721; telephone (559)498-4591; fax (559)488-1015; email

Commercial Shipping

International freight shipments to and from the entire region flow through the Fresno Yosemite International Airport, a direct port of entry. The nation's largest parcel carriers, FedEx, UPS, and DHL, operate from there. Rail freight services are provided by both the Burlington Northern-Santa Fe and Southern Pacific railroads. Nearly 200 truck firms are based within the Fresno County borders.

Labor Force and Employment Outlook

Fresno continues to diversify its economy toward non-agricultural industries. In 2002, two major manufacturers, Sinclair Systems and Rayovac Corporation, moved their headquarters to the Fresno area. Fresno's labor force is productive, motivated, flexible, and relatively young. Steady population growth has occurred faster than local business expansion or new business development. Unemployment rates fluctuate seasonally, due mainly to the high demand for agricultural labor at certain times of the year. A large number of immigrants, both regional and international, provide a continuous supply of employable people with diverse skills. Job availability is aided by a cooperative effort between business and government to attract new industry.

The following is summary of data regarding the city of Fresno labor force, 2004 annual averages.

Size of non-agricultural labor force: 285,800

Number of workers employed in . . .

natural resources and mining: 200

construction: 20,000

manufacturing: 27,400

trade, transportation and utilities: 55,800

information: 4,400

financial activities: 13,700

professional and business services: 27,300

educational and health services: 35,400

leisure and hospitality: 24,000

other services: 10,700

government: 66,400

Average hourly earnings of production workers employed in manufacturing: $12.14

Unemployment rate: 13.0% (January 2005)

Fresno: Economy

Largest employers Number of employees
Fresno County Unified School District 10,000
Fresno County 6,492
Community Medical Centers 5,500
City of Fresno 3,131
Zacky Farms 2,500
St. Agnes Medical Center 2,400

Cost of Living

Fresno boasts a cost of living that is low compared to other California cities.

The following is a summary of data regarding several key cost of living factors for the Fresno area.

2004 (3rd Quarter) ACCRA Average House Price: $390,843

2004 (3rd Quarter) ACCRA Cost of Living Index: 119.3 (U.S. average = 100.0)

State income tax rate: Ranges from 1.0% to 9.3%

State sales tax rate: 6.0% (food and prescription drugs are exempt)

Local income tax rate: None

Local sales and use tax rate: 1.975%

Property tax rate: Limited to 1% of assessed value by state law. In some cases the local taxing body can add up to0.15%

Economic Information: Fresno Chamber of Commerce, 2331 Fresno Street, Fresno, CA 93716; telephone (559)495-4800